Background & Brief

November 19th is World Toilet Day, an event that promotes sustainable sanitation solutions for communities around the globe and draws attention to this crucial public health issue. For 2018’s World Toilet Day the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the China Council for the Promotion of International Trade and the China Chamber of International Commerce jointly held the Reinvented Toilet Expo in Beijing to showcase new technologies including the first market-ready next generation toilets. Bill Gates opened the Expo with the keynote speech, drawing international media attention.

BRIDGE was engaged by the We Are Water Foundation (WAWF) and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to organize series of online and offline activities for World Toilet Day to raise public awareness and acceptance of ‘nature-friendly’ toilets, and to encourage a dialogue on the positive environmental impact that such technologies offer. A particular emphasis was on building personal links with the Beijing creative community to recruit long-term influencers who can advocate on this topic through art, design and advertising.

What does this case show about BRIDGE?

●WE CAN build a unified campaign through both online and offline activity

●WE CAN bring together diverse specialist audiences and enable synergies between them

●WE CAN re-purpose international content to make it relevant to local audiences

●WE CAN generate engaging locally-sourced content that aligns with global messages

●WE CAN target KOLs and local media to multiply the reach of content

●WE CAN bring in projects on budget and on target

Our Solution – Offline Activities

We co-hosted a World Toilet Day event with WAWF aimed at introducing creative professionals – artists, designers, adverting agencies – to public health and NGO experts to discuss how to use the creative power of art and design to improve environmental and sanitation conditions around the globe. We curated an intimate event in a unique gallery space linked to a high-end home and bathroom design showroom, enabling the handpicked audience of 30 to learning in the most impactful way – through debate and discussion with their own creative peers. The long-term aim of the event was to lay the groundwork for an art show that can form a key part of 2019’s World Toilet Day activities in China.

The event began with a video produced by WAWF introducing sanitation issues in Kenya. This led into a panel discussion on the environmental health issues raised in this video between three experts: Dr. Yang Zhenbo, Director of the UNICEF Water and Sanitation Program, Qian Jun, known as the Chinese “Mr. Toilet”, and professional illustrator Nie Bei. They offered strategies from both public health and artistic perspectives on how to raise public awareness of environmental health issues, and stressed the need for creative collaborations to address water and sanitation issues.

After the panel discussion we presented a video showcasing a water-free composting toilet already in use in Beijing and explaining both the science in employs and its practical application. Three senior visual artists then discussed how art and design can be harnessed for raising public awareness of sanitation issues in a ‘spotlight session’.

Our Solution – Online Campaign

We designed a series of online campaigns about Bill Gates’ trip to China to strengthen awareness of environmental health protection and promote audience engagement.

We built our core content on two key points. Firstly we introduced the background to the Expo and to Bill’s visit through localizing videos and other content produced by the Gates Foundation that highlighted their work on next generation toilets. Secondly we focused on Gates’ speech, in which he walked onto the stage holding a jar of faeces, in order to highlight the health implications for communities using non-sanitary toilets, identifying this ‘shock value’ as a hook that could catch public attention. Our communications strategy involved both ‘owned promotions’ on the Gates Foundation’s official China social media channels, and paid promotions that used analytics tools to strategically target this high-value content at users beyond Gates’ usual followers, thus maximizing its impact. We were extremely successful in this campaign in securing a large number of reposts by online Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs), which in turn multiplied the effect of these two posts until they ran to two million views. Furthermore we received multiple media requests for cooperation, and our swift response resulted in significant amounts of earned media coverage.

BRIDGE successfully pitched a popular social media magazine channel, GQ Lab, to publish an article on their platforms that embedded our client’s video in an introduction to the topic aimed at tech-savvy young, educated urban Chinese. Riffing on a play-on-words with the lyrics of a classic Chinese pop song “write a poem for you”, the piece was titled “Gates carries poop for you” (a near homonym in Chinese). This also illustrated our ability to employ a sharp and culturally sensitive use of humor – a key tool in engaging users in an over-saturated social media environment – while maintaining the seriousness of the issues and the reputations of the high-profile clients we represent.

A further post played on the big showbiz news of the week, punning on the name of an annual film award ceremony often labelled the ‘Chinese Oscars’. By adding a single character to the Chinese name, the 金马奖 (Golden Horse Awards) become the金马桶奖 (Golden Toilet Awards), and a comic strip we had commissioned from a local artist imagined Bill Gates joining other major figures in this global sanitation campaign, such as Indian PM Nahendra Modi, in a “Mr Toilet Roundtable”, allowing us to grab readers for this serious topic in a light-hearted manner.

Gates and Modi, two of the world’s leading “Mr. Toilets” preach the sanitation revolution at our very own “Golden Toilet Awards”!


Both online and offline elements of the campaign reached or exceeded their targets, with the social media posts reaching more than double the anticipated audience. Our collaborative and creative approaches paid dividends, and we delivered all elements on time and on budget. End result? A very satisfied client!

The event hosted with WAWF attracted over 30 target attendees from the creative sector, along with media and NGO experts, providing a major opportunity to ‘cross-pollinate’ ideas between these diverse professional and social groups, and to increase awareness of nature-based sanitation solutions among the communities represented by these influencers. As a direct result of connections made at this event, WAWF have also established relationships with four potential partners for future collaboration, both NGOs and creative professionals. Feedback from attendees was extremely positive, with a number already expressing their enthusiasm to participate in the planned 2019 exhibition.

Our social media campaign saw a total of two million ‘perception-shifting engagements’ – defined as views of the video and blog post that made up the campaign’s core content – double our original target of one million. As explained above, much of this was built on our success in securing re-posts from influential public figures and media outlets. These included Yuan Yue (a senior reporter at Sanlian Life Week, 2.5M followers), Gaofei Wang (CEO of Weibo, 980k followers), Guokr (a popular science and learning driven media outlet, 8.5M followers), and Matrix Partners China (an elite tech investment firm, 600k followers). Our locally-generated secondary content also exceeded its readership targets, with the GQ article and comic strip garnering a total of 46,000 views across Weibo and WeChat against a target of 20,000.

The client was extremely satisfied with the campaign that we built around World Toilet Day, a key part of their annual programme. We worked effectively within budgetary and content constraints, focusing on the quality of the localization and employing diverse strategies to creatively connect with both specialist and mass audiences.